Saturday, January 3, 2015

Call for Submissions
English Historical Fiction Authors Announces the First annual M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction
Entries are being accepted for works published in 2014
The winner of the prize of $500 will be announced at
the Historical Novel Society Conference in June, 2015
For further details and to submit an application visit

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Writing Process

Today is "My Writing Process" blog tour day, when writers answer questions about their writing process. Last week, fellow author Felicia Rogers posted hers. You can read it HERE and learn about Felicia's books. She invited me, in turn, to post about my process. Thank you, Felicia!

My Writing Process

Once I can tear myself away from the other things demanding my time, I sit with my laptop on a floral loveseat in my English writing room. It is a lovely space (or was till hubby and tax season got involved). I have a ceramic bust on a piece of furniture, a large portrait on the wall, prints of Blue Boy and Pinky hanging behind me, a Coat of Arms (sadly not my own) plaque, a frilly Victorian parasol, and a pirate flag and megaphone from our production of Pirates of Penzance--to name a few of the decor objects in the room.

What I am Working On

After completing and launching Companion, Skylark was already down on virtual paper in part. I thought it would be done as quickly, but I started on a project that took on a life of its own--a busy one. That is the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Though many other authors write most of the daily posts, I manage the blog, do some editing, and run some associated Facebook groups.

One of the authors, Deborah Swift, suggested that we take select posts from the first year of the blog and make an anthology. That idea developed, and Volume One of Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors has been published. The huge number of hours involved in that have been well worth it--the book has been well received, and we have begun work on a Volume II.

Therefore, For the Skylark has taken me not one, not two, but three years to this date. And it is not done.

This might be me not writing.
Linda Collison recently tweeted that she wanted to hold a histfic writer's retreat in Hawaii--which heavenly state I love. I couldn't go. But Linda suggested we do a virtual retreat, and I was more than all for that. So we have put together a blog with plans for a retreat for the months of February and March (histfic authors are invited!). I'm going to, at last, finish Skylark! I already have the next book, a Skylark sequel, The Duke of Mendenwood, down in brief form. And two more books in that hoped-for series are bouncing around in my head, the fourth to be set in 19th-century Hawaii on a sugar plantation.

How My Work Differs From Others in the Genre

Companion has been called a "fun read". Skylark has its fun sections but is more dramatic, and it has been called poetic in style. While my books are lightly romantic, the main plot of the story is the development of questions that need answers--like Jane Austen stories with suspense and a surprise ending.

Why I Write What I Do

For the Skylark's Evangeline
Or possibly Christine Robertson's
Portret Orlovoi Davidovoi
Companion was written in part to rebel against the modern tell-all stories I always saw in the grocery store. I wanted to show that a story could be good and fun without being embarrassing to the reader. My books will never grace the grocery store. They also had to be English historical novels. That is what I love and must write.

How My Writing Process Works

I once attended a book signing, and because I wanted to take notes on the author's speech, I bought a beautiful little journal with a metallic design on the cover. The author wrote her email address down in the journal for me, which pleased me to no end. After the notes and her email address, there were many blank pages remaining. I saved that lovely book for some time, wanting to use the later pages for something very special.

The need made itself known.

When I am planning out a story, I can think all day and get nowhere. But once I go to bed and try to sleep, the ideas begin to flow. I learned the hard way that wonderful ideas slept upon disappear into thin air or get whisked away and probably plagarized by shady dream characters. My pretty journal was put next to the bed and is now full of ideas for The Companion of Lady Holmeshire, some used and some not, and for For the Skylark. There are even notes for the distant future The Household Rules of an English Gentleman. When I'm famous, it will be an in-demand collector's item. Alternately, lol, it could be passed down in the family.

I need to know where my story is going before I start on the manuscript. Once I have it in bits in the journal and taking form in my head, I begin to write the book, totalling only a few pages, in paragraphs--each of which is later developed into a chapter. So before I begin with any dialogue or descriptive phrases, the whole story is written, beginning, middle, and end, in brief. Once that is done, it feels pleasant to hit the keyboard and bring forth personality, drama, and humor with no worries about where the story is going.

Until one of the characters defies me. Oh yes. It is usually the leading male who takes off in his own direction, though Skylark's Evangeline is pretty moody, and she can go off on a tangent, too. But we have a deal. They can do what they wish as long as the story ends the way it is meant to end. So far, so good.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for images.

Next week visit Judith Arnopp to learn of her writing process!

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Visit to Castello di Amorosa

Ladies in Waiting.......

For all you depressed, hopeless Anglophiles with castles on the brain who long to slide back in time into the realm of lords and ladies but who find yourselves approximately six thousand miles away, like me, from even the nearest European stronghold, I give you Castello di Amorosa.

There, off of HWY CA-29 in the northern part of Napa Valley, California, 2 miles south of Calistoga and 5 1/2 miles north of St. Helena, sits a real 13th century castle, only nine years old. I've been there.

I had to throw a bit of a snit to get there. It's true. Everyone else wanted to go elsewhere, basically nowhere, while we were in the Napa Valley. And there was a real castle sitting there for me to miss out on. I didn't say they had to go. I only said that I was going. I don't normally put my foot down, and nobody had planned on us splitting up for the day, so all-in-all, it was a shock. We all went.

Castello di Amorosa is very young as far as castles go, but it is real in every other way. It was built using medieval techniques from European stone, including nearly one million antique bricks--handmade ones from torn-down Hapsburg palaces. The workers made all the lamps, decorative iron pieces, and iron gates by hand, working over an open forge. Every hinge and lock, every chain link, every nail was hand-crafted, as if made in medieval times. They hand-made all the leaded glass windows. They hand-carved most of the door and window surrounds, the well, and the stone crests depicting the family's coat of arms.

What was meant to be a 5-6 year project expanded from the original 8,500 square feet to 121,000, and 107 rooms. There are more than 80 rooms underground. The square footage of just the underground rooms, built on four levels, is nearly 80,000, or about two acres. These rooms are barrel aging cellars and wine tasting rooms--which we enjoyed adequately.

The castle is complete with stables, apartments for nobles, wine fermenting rooms, a church and chapel in regular use, secret passageways, and even a prison and torture chamber. The builder was bent on incorporating every element of a real medieval Tuscan castle. He attempted to depict how castles evolved over time by erecting doorways and niches which he then bricked up. He even built a partially destroyed tower.

There are chickens and sheep which add to the realism.

I sat on the Queen's chair at the long banquet table. I looked out through arrow slit windows--could have vanquished my better half as he wended his way up to my tower. I felt trapped behind hammered iron bars which covered the window in a locked hall. I stomped on hewn-stone floors which were held up by hewn-stone arches in underground rooms. Yes, I was in a real castle.

Still, the stones were too clean. They lacked the centuries of dirt bits driven in by relentless winds and the moss that grows in the dirt. I thought of offering to scrub some grime into the bricks for a goodly fee. It would have been some long years of steady work. HIgh on a ladder. Um, no.

And there was a parking lot with no king underneath.

Yes, history was absent despite all the reality. No lord had ever defended this fortress. No lady had been courted within those walls. No harried servants had scurried across the courtyard before his ears were boxed.

But I had the pleasure of being there and seeing it all and letting my imagination run rampant. It was wonderful fun.

I take pleasure in announcing the immediate release of Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors on Amazon Kindle US, Amazon Kindle UK, and at a special price for the print copy (at this writing) on Amazon US, and Amazon UK. The book will soon be available at Barnes and Noble and other online stores.

I am giving away a copy of My Book House Books, Vol. 12 to a winner within the United States. You have no idea what a sacrifice this is. I am buying this for YOU, and I don't even have one anymore. We left them behind when we moved cross-country--I was just 12. The Book House Books are what made me the Anglophile freak that I am. I read them all throughout my childhood. (I will have them again. The whole set.)

This is a used copy with some shelf-wear and aging, but it is great reading from famous writers.

Please follow the links below to other magnificent castles and palaces. Enjoy!

Update: The giveaway winner is Sophia Rose!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway of Castles, Customs, and Kings!

You can enter a Goodreads giveaway of Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales of English Historical Fiction Authors. It runs till September 23rd, the release date.

The book is an anthology of blog posts from the first year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Truth can indeed be stranger than fiction!

This book keeps a person’s attention. Each “chapter” is a page or two long, so it is wonderful for reading in short sittings. It would be a great waiting room book, lobby or break-room book, or a book to be read on public transportation. These essays from different time periods would also help to interest high school students in history.

 Please visit the Goodreads page to enter.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Great Chalfied Manor by Derek Harper
Creative Commons
I've been tagged by acclaimed author Nancy Bilyeau (whose novel The Crown has been well-received in the historical fiction world) in a blog game called The Next Big Thing. The game involves answering questions about my work-in-progress or a piece that I would like to be come the next big thing! After the questions, I will tag five more authors.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

1.) What Is the title of your book?

For the Skylark

2.) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was always so intrigued and in awe of Charles Dickens' character, Miss Havisham. I wanted to write a story about a reclusive woman like her. I had no idea what would happen in the story when I started, but within a page or so, her adult twins, Dante and Evangeline came into being. It turned out to be them I loved. They had been raised on an estate in isolation and have psychological consequences of that situation. The story took off.

Walter O Briggs House
by  Andrew Jameson Creative Commons

3.) What genre does your book fall under?

Historical Suspense. It might end up in YA.

4.) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Evangeline: I cannot find someone in the right age. Perhaps a younger Emily Blunte.

Dante: Dan Stevens If he could look 21....

Lady Charlotte: Rachel Weisz (yes, she is old enough at 40)

Molly: Gemma Arterton in blonde hair

Becker: Brendan Coyle (yeah!)

Hampton the butler (antagonist): Hugh Bonneville

5.) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Yikes! One sentence? Querying skills condensed even more?

Twenty-one year old Evangeline goes from content and happy secluded with her dear twin-brother Dante on a strangely functioning estate since birth to distraught and panicky as life normalizes when the world encroaches upon the estate and threatens to pull them apart.

For information on writing a "log-line", see Kristen Lamb's Blog. Kristen is the author of We Are Not Alone- the Writer's Guide to Social Media.

6.) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I do not plan to self publish the book. I may query agents or will go with a small publisher.

7.) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? And read the intro.

I have been working on it for fifteen months. This is the beginning of the prologue:

"Rules of the House were reviewed on Sunday mornings. The sound of distant church bells meant meetings in a study under the stern watch of nobles in frames. Twenty-one year-old Evangeline and her brother Dante were always on time. Lady Charlotte read out a number, and one of the twins would recite the corresponding Rule."

8.) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Great Expectations

9.) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Miss Havisham made me do it. :)

10.) What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Evangeline goes from content and happy in her strange circumstances to distraught and panicky as they normalize. Dante, her beloved twin and only friend, wants to break the Rules, go through the gates and see outside the estate. He even falls in love. Evangeline feels she must keep him for herself. She withdraws even more, sitting for days with her mother in the tower. And then everything goes wrong.

You can meet the twins HERE.

Pitzhanger Manor Gates
by P.G. Champion  Creative Commons

Thanks to Nancy Bilyeau for sending you here! I will nominate five others. I do have to have their consent, so please return to see the rest of my list. Each of these will put up their posts as they can get to it.

David William Wilkin
M.M. Bennetts
Sandra Byrd
Deborah Swift
Sue Millard

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pretty Proposals of the Millenium

I invite authors and readers to join me in sharing pretty marriage proposals from historical fiction novels published since January 1, 2000. Please put the proposal as a comment below.
Please name the title and author of the book.
I will start with the proposal of Mr. Gabriel Hughes to Miss Emma Carrington from The Companion of Lady Holmeshire, my debut novel.

Gabe assisted Emma to rise, and they moved from their stiff dining chairs to a down-stuffed, white sofa. Gabriel stared off into space as he transferred himself, nearly speaking twice once they sat. Emma sorted her prepared expressions of regret, searching for one to mercifully stop him before words appeared that could not be unsaid. She raised a finger to signal her wish to talk just as he cleared his throat and spoke. “Miss Carrington, you have but recently met me, I am quite well aware.” Having at last raised the courage, he went on to make his case, grateful to have spoken in time to stop her preventing it. “I am horrified at myself for being forward in this matter,” he said, “but you see, I am more troubled that someone else may appear, someone who does not love you as well nor would treat you as well, before I feel it more appropriate to take the opportunity. Therefore, you see, I must declare my feelings today and hope you will understand my haste in the matter. I have seen for myself and have heard that you are an admirable woman. You are certainly beautiful in every way—in face and form and outstandingly in manner. In the few weeks I have known you, I can barely eat unless I am fortunate to be with you, or hardly sleep at night for visions of your smile. I am a barrister. Therefore I am well able to support you in comfort on my earnings alone. Besides, I have been left a truly charming country cottage and some considerable income to manage the house through the estate of Her Late Majesty the Queen Caroline of Brunswick. My foster parents, as well, have left me a pleasant home here in Town, which is where I dwell for much of the year. It is not so grand as this Belgrave mansion, but I can entertain comfortably in it; that is, when a hostess may be found.” He fumbled with his pocket watch, not wanting to forget any vital part of his preamble or fail to pour it out before she could decline. The remaining words, if said, might prove a great temptation to her. “As a barrister, my wife would attend the royal court; therefore, you would spend as much time as you wish with your friends during the Season. All other wishes of yours would be given the greatest consideration. I should dislike, very much, to ever decline your request. I wonder, then, dear Miss Carrington, if you would make me ever so happy and become my wife?” He put up a finger to stop her from replying and added, “I felt great urgency, indecorously, in making this request, but I shall give you as much time as you wish to reply. I shall assume that until you give a reply you are considering the matter. Please be assured of my lasting faithfulness and love, and do consider my words.” Emma could have been easily swayed, kind-hearted as she was and not wanting to hurt him. She had listened intently, watching his face and how it gradually raised as he gained confidence. His eyes had lifted from overseeing the wringing of his hands and had settled with a hopeful gaze into hers. He surveyed every motion of her face, the direction of any turn of the corners of her mouth and the leaning of her body to ascertain her thoughts.

The proposal can succeed ...
Or fail.

Please leave only proposals appropriate for a general audience. You may include a link to the book.

Thank you for sharing it!

The Companion of Lady Holmeshire

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Indulging Your Inner Aristocrat~
British Period Novels

Thank you so much for visiting my website! I am the author of an Amazon Bestselling early Victorian novel, a polite mystery/romance.

Leave Modern Cares Behind

Do you want to settle down on the divan and drift back in time, a century and a half, to a very different world? To visit ancient stone castles, olde English villages and London mansions? To banquet and dance at the Midsummer Night's Dream Ball?

The Companion of Lady Holmeshire
In this Jane Austen inspired novel set early in Queen Victoria's reign, a foundling infant, grown to become the lovely housemaid, Emma Carrington, has been chosen by the Countess of Holmeshire as her companion. Emma returns from London, where she had been receiving training in the arts of refinement, to the country castle home of the lady in Northumbria. Soon the lady’s son, the 7th Earl of Holmeshire, engaged by arrangement to Genevieve, an aristocratic London lady, returns from his travels to the Continent to find this former servant girl at tea. A day in the village below reveals some hint of danger to Emma; a man in tatters is following her, while unfamiliar gentlemen follow Genevieve.

Polite romantic developments among the aristocrats and the servants amuse as they spend time in London for The Season. The Countess attempts to introduce this former servant girl into snobbish aristocratic society as her companion- to quite some reaction. The harsh realities of life are seen while visiting a poor area in Victorian London, contrasting with the aristocratic Midsummer Night's Dream Ball. Intriguing mystery has been woven through the book, and quite a surprise awaits at the end.

Read part of this book and see the video trailer HERE.
And Now...

See what you can deduce before reading the last two chapters. Please leave your guesses on my Reader's Game page to win a valuable jewelry prize! And then read on for the great surprise ending, with a twist that none of my readers thus far had expected.

For the Skylark~ To Be Published in 2013

My second book, For the Skylark, is an early Victorian story about an unusual family. Why does Her Ladyship keep herself isolated in an octagonal attic-like room? What is in the locked chest that she sits and polishes? She does come to spend dinnertime with her grown twins, Dante and Evangeline, who adore and live for each other. The twins were kept isolated from the world, so they know no better than to live meticulously by the strict House Rules. Dante, however, begins to see that most of the world lives differently and wants to set foot out of the grand estate to experience it. Evangeline has been happy and content at home; can Dante not just leave things as they are? The book is full of intriguing mystery and polite romance. You can read a chapter from this book HERE.

Castle in The Companion of Lady Holmeshire
Photographs above are by the kindness of Colin and Louise English

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The Companion of Lady Holmeshire is available in digital format for ereaders through Amazon. Contact me by email to receive a copy for your Nook.
Available in Trade Paperback at Amazon, World Castle Publications and Barnes & Noble.

For the Skylark is set for release in 2013.

On separate pages, you will find chapters of each book and a video preview of The Companion of Lady Holmeshire.

Photos above, Scotney Castle, courtesy of Graham Taylor, Brodsworth Hall, courtesy of Paul Howarth and Belton House, courtesy of Colin and Louise English.